The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents

Homeschooling FAQ: How do I decide what approach to take?

How we approach the academic aspect of our children’s learning has an impact on their development and well-being in other dimensions of their being as well: physical, social, psychological, mental, emotional and spiritual.

A number of homeschooling approaches are described on the OFTP’s webpage about teaching methods and learning philosophies. But when you’re first starting your homeschooling journey, how do you decide which of these approaches to take?

Start by questioning any assumptions or preconceptions you might have about childhood education, and redefine it according to your own beliefs and in the context of your own overall parenting goals.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you explore the issues:

What is the purpose of education?

Is education about preparing children to enter the job market as adults? Giving them a foundation of culture (helping them become “educated” persons)? Developing their intelligence? Developing their talents? Overcoming their weaknesses? Drawing out their full potential? Ask yourself: What do I believe the purpose of education is?

Therefore, what do my children need to learn?

Is it important to conform to the predetermined set of knowledge and skills delineated by the standard school curriculum? Are there things I want my children to learn that the school curriculum doesn’t cover, or doesn’t cover to my liking? Which topics of learning are useless and which ones involve processes that help children’s development even if they don’t retain the knowledge or skill itself? What are the minimum skills and knowledge children should have acquired by the time they are adult?

What’s the best way for my children to learn those things?

How can I best help my children acquire that set of skills and knowledge? What is their learning style? What approach will they respond to with the most positive results in terms of overall learning (i.e. not just academic learning, but what they learn about themselves, life and relationships, through interacting with me as I parent them through my chosen approach to the academic)?

Which of the described approaches aligns with all of the above?

Having explored some of these questions, you can more clearly see what approaches are aligned with your own beliefs and overall parenting philosophy and goals. Choose the homeschooling approach that’s the best match for your current hopes and expectations, but remember: nothing needs to be set in stone, course corrections are a natural and normal part of the journey. Always remain open to re-evaluating as you go along, staying responsive to your child’s actual, changing needs.

Last but not least…

Relax. Have fun. Keep in mind that your children are learning whether or not you’re doing anything deliberate about their education. As long as you’re parenting in an engaged, loving way, even the so-called academic learning happens naturally. You can rely on that explicitly if you take an unschooling approach, or you can be more directive if that suits your parenting style better. Either way, don’t worry — you got this!

© Marian Buchanan, 2010 – 2020

Marian joined the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents a couple of decades ago, around the time PPM131 was being negotiated. Her unschooled son is all grown up now, but she remains involved in the homeschooling community through her volunteer work with the OFTP as well as running several homeschool-related websites, including the Canadian Home Based Learning Resource Page, University Admissions in Canada, and the Homeschool Media Network. She also offers a few downloadable activities for children through her Kids and Caboodles site.